Slack has quietly invested in a chatbot company

Slack CEO Stewart ButterfieldSlackSlack CEO Stewart Butterfield.

Slack’s recently-launched $80 million VC fund has invested an unspecified amount in chatbot company Automat.

Automat allows brands and influencers to communicate with their customers, fans, and employees by using a mixture of mobile messaging, artificial intelligence, and chatbot technology.

The Canada-based company claims on its website to have 17 patents “in the fields of speech recognition, natural language understanding, virtual assistants, and AI.”

Automat was cofounded by Andy Mauro in January. He was the former senior director of the “cognitive innovations group” at Nuance Communications, a US-based tech outfit that uses natural and voice understanding to help power devices for companies such as Samsung, Ford, and Domino’s.

Automat counts internet trend spotter Tim O’Reilly, Chris Messina, the “inventor of the hashtag” and Uber developer experience lead, amongst its investors and advisors. Gary Clayton, who sits on the board at automobile tech company Automatic Labs and serves as an advisor to a number of other tech companies, is chairman of Automat’s board of directors.

Andy CEO Andy Mauro.

Automat’s other investors include Relay Ventures, Real Ventures, You & Mr Jones, USAA, and OATV, according to the company’s website.

A spokesperson for Slack declined to comment on the investment.

Back in December, Slack announced the launch of its VC fund, which primarily invests in startups building apps on top of Slack.

The fund is backed with additional capital from partners including Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Spark, and Social Capital. At launch, Slack said it would primarily make investments worth $100,000 to $250,000 in seed-stage startups that make Slack their core foundation.

Slack has only officially announced three investments to date, which coincided with the fund’s launch:

  • Howdy — an app that runs status update meetings for teams through Slack’s built-in bot.
  • Small Wins — a stealth productivity startup founded by former Engadget editor-in-chief Ryan Block.
  • Awesome — an app that helps customers automate workflows and provide summaries of Slack chats.

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